DID YOU READ

Michael Madsen Learns to Be, Zoe Kazan Explodes, and More New on DVD

Michael Madsen Learns to Be, Zoe Kazan Explodes, and More New on DVD (photo)

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“Being Michael Madsen” (2010)
Directed by Michael Mongillo
Released by Midnight Releasing

While not as distinguished or meta as “Being John Malkovich,” expect this mockumentary about the “Reservoir Dogs” star to be equally surreal as Madsen recruits sister Virginia and “Kill Bill” co-stars Daryl Hannah and the late David Carradine to co-star in this film that sees him accused of murder. Rather than sit idly by, Madsen turns the table on the paparazzi photographer fueling the allegations by hiring a trio of filmmakers to follow his every move.

“Beneath Clouds” (2002)
Directed by Ivan Sen
Released by Cinema Epoch

This Australian drama stars Dannielle Hall and the late Damian Pitt as Lena and Vaughn, a pair of strangers thrown together by circumstance to travel across the country to Sydney where Lena hopes to learn more about her long-absent father and Vaughn hope to leave behind his criminal past and see his ailing mother.

“Blood Into Wine” (2010)
Directed by Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenke
Released by Dreamy Draw Releasing

Drinking was likely a part of the touring lifestyle of Tool frontman Maynard Keenan, but here he turns it into an artform in this celeb-filled doc about the vineyards he co-owns with Eric Glomski in Arizona. Patton Oswalt, Milla Jovovich, and Bob Odenkirk come by for a sip.

“By the Will of Genghis Khan” (2010)
Directed by Andrei Borissov
Released by MTI Home Video

For fans of “Mongol,” this Russian-produced epic offers another take on the life of the famed conqueror as he expanded his empire across Asia and Eastern Europe during the 10th and 11th century.

“A Call Girl” (2009)
Directed by Damjan Kozole
Released by Film Movement

A festival favorite from Rotterdam and Toronto, Kozole’s drama follows a Slovenian prostitute trying to make ends meet for her college tuition when a member of the European Parliament dies on her during a date and brings unwanted attention and notoriety her way.

09072010_ExplodingGirl.jpg“The Exploding Girl” (2009)
Directed by Bradley Rust Gray
Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories

Winner of a Best Actress prize when it premiered at last year’s Tribeca, the fast-rising Kazan gets her first lead in Gray’s Brooklyn-based character study of an epileptic college student who finds it hard to keep her emotions in check when she starts to have romantic feelings towards her longtime friend (Rendall) even as she’s still involved with another man who’s largely ignoring her. (Alison Willmore’s review is here and Aaron Hillis’ interview with Kazan is here.)

“The Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi” (2009)
Directed by Ian Olds
Released by Passion River

“Occupation: Dreamland” documentarian Olds earned an Emmy nomination for this chronicle of Naqshbandi, a middle man in Afghanistan for foreign journalists looking to make contacts and connections for their stories who was abducted with Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo by the Taliban and killed when their demands were not met.

“Growth” (2009)
Directed by Gabriel Cowan
Released by Anchor Bay

Perhaps a nice double bill option for Vincenzo Natali’s “Splice,” this horror flick stars Mircea Monroe as a woman who lost her mother to a scientific experiment on an island during the 1980s where residents were exposed to a parasite that improved their strength and awareness, but had terrible consequences down the road. Twenty years later, she returns to the island with her half-brother where she learns the worst is yet to come.

“John Rabe” (2009)
Directed by Florian Gallenberger
Released by Strand Releasing

A big winner at the German Film Awards where the historical drama picked up seven nominations (including a rare one for the American Steve Buscemi) and took home best film, “John Rabe” features “North Face” star Ulrich Tukur as a businessman who saved the lives of 200,000 Chinese by using his Nazi Party connections to create a safety zone for those fleeing Asia during the rape of Nanking in 1937. Buscemi plays an American physician who reluctantly helps Rabe with medical care for the refugees while “Inglourious Basterds” star Daniel Brühl plays a Jewish diplomat who inspires Rabe to create a safety zone.

“Killers” (2010)
Directed by Robert Luketic
Released by Lionsgate

Dismissed by some as a “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”-lite (by the few critics that saw it), the comedy part of this action comedy stems from the fact that only Ashton Kutcher is an assassin while his new bride Katherine Heigl is blissfully unaware until their neighbors come over one day to kill them. Hilarity ensues.

09072010_LossofaTeardropDiamond.jpg“The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond” (2009)
Directed by Jodie Markell
Released by Screen Media Films

Memphis-born actress Markell takes on another Tennessee with her feature directorial debut, an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ unproduced screenplay from the late ’50s about a rebellious heiress (Howard) who defies the rules of her Southern high society circle by taking the son of her father’s caretaker (Evans) as her escort during the social season, but what started as a financial arrangement between the two flourishes into something more. (Alonso Duralde’s review is here.)

“MacGruber” (2010)
Directed by Jorma Taccone
Released by Rogue Pictures

This “SNL” spinoff film, itself a takeoff of master handyman “MacGuyver,” didn’t exactly set the world ablaze when it came out theatrically this summer, but Will Forte, Kirsten Wiig and Ryan Phillippe still got to blow a lot of shit up in the course of making this raucous comedy that pit MacGruber against his toughest foe to date, Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer). (Also check out Matt Zoller Seitz’s review, my review from SXSW and an interview with the cast.)

“Solitary Man” (2010)
Directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien
Released by Anchor Bay

Last seen playing the ultimate scuzzy playboy in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” Michael Douglas stars as an all-too fallible used car dealership titan whose life falls apart when his bad business dealings come back to haunt him and he begins to lose his touch as a ladies’ man, pushing away both his recently divorced ex-wife (Susan Sarandon) and daughter (Jenna Fischer) as he settles into a relationship with a well-connected younger woman (Mary-Louise Parker). “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “The Girlfriend Experience scribes Koppelman and Levien return for their first foray behind the camera since 2001’s “Knockaround Guys.” (My interview with Koppelman and Levien is here.)

09072010_SorryThanks.jpg“Sorry, Thanks” (2009)
Directed by Dia Sokol
Released by Cinema Epoch

Wiley Wiggins, Andrew Bujalski and Kenya Miles star as twentysomethings adrift in San Francisco in Bujalski cohort Sokol’s feature directorial debut. When the film premiered at SXSW in 2009, Alison Willmore wrote, “‘Sorry, Thanks’ is filled with the expected and somewhat tiresome semi-whimsical digressions…but [Sokol] is in touch with another emotion that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s watched similar films: the desire to give everyone on screen a good shake and suggest that they are actually well into their adult lives.”

“That Evening Sun” (2009)
Directed by Scott Teems
Released by Image Entertainment

Teems’ directorial debut was the hit of SXSW when it premiered in Austin, with many buzzing about the performance of 82-year-old Hal Holbrook as a Tennessee farmer who returns from an unpleasant stay at a nursing home to his farm and finds that his son (Walton Goggins) has leased the land to a ne’er do well (Ray McKinnon) who is trying to get his life together. (Aaron Hillis’ interview with Holbrook is here.)

Also making their first appearance on Blu-ray: “Forbidden Planet,” Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks,” Robert Altman’s “The Player,” “Rising Sun,” Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust,” George Lucas’ “THX-1138”

[Additional photos: “The Exploding Girl,” Oscilloscope Laboratories, 2009; “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond,” Paladin Films, 2009; “Sorry, Thanks,” IFC Films, 2009]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.